Sunday, July 8, 2012

Yes, Expanding Medicaid Means Helping Nevada's Economy.

Believe it or not, I'm not the only one talking about how idiotic it would be for Nevada to reject the Medicaid expansion provision of the Affordable Care Act. UNLV urban affairs professor and local genius Robert Lang also has something to say about this.

Las Vegas’ health care industry is dramatically smaller than in other states, meaning we have fewer doctors, nurses and receptionists than would be expected.

Given our population’s size, age and income, the health care industry should make up 18 percent of our overall economy. In Southern Nevada, it’s about 12 percent, according to a study co-authored by Lang last year.

“There’s a lot of medicine missing from Southern Nevada,” he said.

[...] Lang said direct costs to Nevada should be weighed against the economic benefits. Economic diversification has been a priority of Sandoval’s administration, and health care is identified as one of the seven industry sectors the state is trying to attract. The governor’s economic development plan also identifies Nevada’s “under-capacity health care system” as one of the state’s liabilities.

Expanding Medicaid “might be a chance to put a lot of money in play,” Lang said.

Advocates for Medicaid — from patient advocates to doctors and hospital representatives — have argued that for every dollar spent on the program, there’s a multiplier effect. In English, money earned by a Medicaid provider is then spent elsewhere in the economy for things such as renting office space, buying lunch or getting haircuts.

And there you have it. Not only would rejecting the Medicaid expansion be terrible health care policy, but it would also hurt our economy. After all, that money that is spent on Medicaid is also money that's injected into our health care sector. And that means more health care jobs and more consumers spending money. Really, expanding Medicaid and fully implementing the Affordable Care Act is a total win-win for Nevada.

So why won't Governor Sandoval recognize this and just accept the new Medicaid funds already? (Remember that the federal government is FULLY finding it for the first 3 years, then will pay for 90% of it going forward!) It's really not about the merits of the policy. Rather, it's about the optics of the politics. This is just about Sandoval and some legislators trying to "save face" among the "tea party" extremists who already don't like them.

Oh, and they think that everyone else is callous enough not to care about this because it's health care for poor people. However, they're clearly missing the point that Medicaid is about mire than just health care for poor people. It's also about lowering health care costs for everyone. And ultimately, it's about building a more stable economy for everyone as well.

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